Page last updated at 22:42 GMT, Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Chile apologises over treatment of indigenous people

Chilean President Michelle Bachelet (in red) and Kawesqar descendants
Chile's president said the government had been guilty of neglect

Chile's president has apologised to the descendants of a group of indigenous people who were shipped to Europe in the late 19th Century and exhibited.

The remains of five Kawesqar Indians, from the country's southernmost region, were honoured in a ceremony after being flown back to the country.

Taken in 1881, they were displayed as curiosities in European cities.

President Michelle Bachelet said the government had been guilty of "neglect in the face of such abuses".

"As we near the bicentennial of our independence, we have to confront both the brightest points and the darkest moments of our history," she said in Santiago.

She said the mistreatment of the indigenous people was due to racist attitudes towards "our indigenous forefathers, whose human dignity was trampled upon".

The bones were discovered in the Swiss city of Zurich where they had been kept for more than a century.

The five, who died there - some of tuberculosis - were among a group of 11 tribespeople captured by German explorers in 1881.

Six were allowed eventually to return to Chile and one died during the voyage home.

From Santiago, the remains of the five who died in Europe were flown to Punta Arenas, in the far south of Chile.

They will be buried in a traditional indigenous ceremony at a remote island close to Tierra del Fuego.

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